Skip to main content

New CBS News Chair: 'I Don't Know Whether' Couric Wants To Stay

On the day his new position as Chairman of CBS News was announced, Jeff Fager says he doesn't know yet whether Katie Couric wants to stay at the network, but that he plans on talking to the star anchor and recent Glee co-star about what is best for both parties.

Among other topics covered in a wide ranging interview Tuesday with B&C's Andrea Morabito, Fager acknowledged that the splitting of the news and sports chief roles -- with Sean McManus relinquishing news division oversight to become CBS Sports chairman -- signifies a renewed commitment to news by the network.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

It's been rumored for a while that Sean was going to give up the news division. Why now?

I don't know that "now" is any particular time, it's just... Look Sean's done an amazing job, he's such a good friend of mine and he's been a great supporter of 60 Minutes. He was here for five years, which I think is probably the extent of how long you should ever be president of a news division. They're very demanding jobs.

So is it fair to say we'll see you moving on to something else in five years then?

[Laughs] You know, I don't know. I'm staying here at 60 Minutes, that's for sure, but excited to be chairman of the organization and work with [new CBS News president] David Rhodes, who is one of the best young news guys I've ever met. It's a terrific development and also a real complement to the people of 60 Minutes because Les feels so strongly about, he's proud of us and he's proud of this broadcast and that I think is a good reflection on everybody out there.

What did Les say to you in taking on this new role?

It really is about, he is so proud of the quality of 60 Minutes and everything that we stand for every Sunday. And me, with my history of almost 30 years at CBS News, it really is about kind of a traditional CBS News broadcast in terms of values, but very current. And I know that that's what Les wants me to do with the rest of CBS News. He wants that to be the guiding principle -- make us proud. The stories that are really going to help people better understand the news of the day, and that's what I try to do, that's what we try to do every Sunday. Those are really good calls for a news organization.

Any changes on the horizon in the near or far term?

I really don't have any idea in terms of where we're going to go next, we're just going to start digging in and really getting to know where things stand, and working from there.

Should we read anything into a Bloomberg alum coming over, considering all the talk about news marriages?

The way to read into it is Andy Lack chooses good people, because he chose David Rhodes and thankfully we got him away. That's all there is. He's just a tremendous individual and will help us enormously.

How will having the top exec 100% dedicated to the news division help?

It's two people. One is going to be working the day-to-day operation and people at CBS News are going to report to him [Rhodes], he reports to me. So in partnership we're going to work on the big picture and I'm going to help significantly with that and guide the place in the direction I think it needs to go.

Does this represent a renewed commitment to news on the part of the network?

I think so. I think it is. I think it sends a signal that the guy in charge of 60 Minutes, a show that we're very proud of, is now going to have a big role in all of CBS News, I think that says something significant about how the company feels about the news division and about wanting to be proud of it. We have a lot to be proud of, in many places, but we can do better, and I think everybody knows that.

What are your thoughts on keeping Katie Couric in the family? Do you think she wants to stay?

I don't know whether she does. It's a good question. It's high on the list of things to do to spend some time with Katie to find out what she wants to do and what she sees is best for her and what's best for CBS News.

But would you be interested in keeping her around if she wants to stay?

I just don't know that she does, so it's a little premature. I look forward to spending some time with her.